I've seen Standart Magazine pop up every now and again in the speciality coffee community. I read a city guide on their blog last year but I did not purchase an edition of their magazine. I have read quite a few coffee books and blogs lately and I started to feel like I needed a change.
Last week, I placed an order for issue 21 of Standart, a publication dedicated to all things speciality coffee. Published quarterly, Standart is not specifically for coffee geeks or industry professionals: the team target coffee drinkers more generally. This is evident by the content in issue 21, a balance between the logistics of coffee growing, how coffee is grown in Yemen, and a collection of photographs that encapsulate various personal relationships with coffee.
The first essay in issue 21 is a feature on Yemen, a country whose coffee I am yet to taste yet intrigues me like no other. Standart highlights many of the issues in Yemen—from the ongoing war to a humanitarian crisis—and balances these with the opportunity of coffee in Yemen. The country relies on traditional processing methods, with coffee cultivated using these processes for over 500 years.
The long-form essays in this magazine, ranging from a look at how environmental practices should be represented by coffee roasters to how WhatsApp is used to communicate with producers, delve deep into particular issues. These essays are easy to read, providing enough information to make me feel more informed without overwhelming me. I especially appreciate the lack of technical jargon, which I feel lends Standart well to anyone who is interested in coffee.
One essay, entitled "Reimagining Robusta," has me yearning to try a well-processed robusta coffee. Arabica has received most of the attention when it comes to speciality coffee but there must be good—or, at the very least, interesting—robusta coffees on the market. This essay left me thinking that perhaps more of a focus on robusta could lead to better care in farming, thus improving the cup profile. Should the speciality coffee industry really disregard an entire species of coffea and relegate it to commodity coffee?
In addition to thoughtful essays on practical issues in coffee, issue 21 features a look at diner coffee in America, a city profile on Rome, Italy, and interviews with two US barista champions who opened their own roastery. The analysis of diner coffee in America is particularly interesting.
While I have never been to a diner, it seems like the notion of "diner coffee" presents a comforting image, where one can be left alone—or meet with friends—in an open space with a bottomless cup of coffee to accompany them in the diner. Its taste is second to the experience it brings. Few go to a diner and expect speciality coffee; they are looking for something else, like solitude or a meal.
Standart has a unique and vibrant aesthetic, featuring vivid colours which accompany each essay. The essay on Yemen, for instance, featured a red background and subject-appropriate artwork. This is a theme throughout the entire publication: you will find plenty of images which are both comforting and convey an additional dimension of context which is difficult to show in the written word.
Whether or not you work in speciality coffee (I do not), Standart Magazine is worth a look. The magazine took a few hours for me to get through—with breaks in between as I was doing other things, including brewing a cup of coffee—and I put the issue down feeling more informed than I did before I started reading. Standart, unlike many books, feels approachable, in large part due to the colours and images throughout the publication. These images accompany detailed insights about the world of coffee which you will struggle to find anywhere else.